- Carpet burn: Chris Craychee's "Steve and Pam in the Sixties"
Fine artists who make a living by art alone are rare. But a few dozen local artists with day jobs keeping Pittsburgh's museums and galleries running get some well-deserved attention in a group show at Space gallery.
Most of the contributors work at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Wood Street Galleries (which includes Space) or the Mattress Factory. Behind Our Scenes, curated by Laura Mustio and Nicole Rosato, fills Space as well as any show that's been there.
Highlights include Jason Shorr's large painting "Guilty Pleasures (Aphrodite)." Blending classical iconography with soft porn, anatomical renderings and graphic elements, with a poppy palette of bright and pastel hues, it's impressive in scale and execution.
Dale Luce's "Drill Baby Drill = Kill Baby Kill" is a gleaming, wall-mounted apparatus of buffed and clipped glass and aluminum; it comes to a point (and its point) with an oversized hypodermic needle poised to plunge into a tender nerve center glowing amber and nestled beneath a crust of synthetic ice. Also explicitly political is Ashley Brickman's "A Tribute: 15 Discharged Tear Gas Canisters." Rendered in unfired clay, tumbled on the gallery floor, it's mutely defiant.
Other commentary is more wry. The scent of charred polyethylene is almost palpable in Chris Craychee's portraits in burned carpet: In "A. Nobel," the ignoble medium mocks the subject's dignity; in "Steve and Pam in the Sixties," it solemnizes banality. The two-part "Housing Plans for the New Year," by Curt Riegelnegg (who's also a CP contributor), offers comic-book-style humans standing in profile in a colorful, abstract landscape of pen, ink and watercolor, staring as phlegmatically as if merely occupying their TV rooms. Meanwhile, Prya Patel's three renderings of people as TV-heads is poignant rather than heavy-handed.
Two works made me laugh out loud. One was Chris and Nick Beauregard's "un-intellivoice," a vintage Mattel voice-synthesizer manipulated to emanate gargled electronic belches and yawps through a small amplifier. The other was Ian Page's "Solid State Metastasis" -- though admittedly, this assemblage of two raw Cornish hens on metal posts in a saltwater aquarium (with a monitor suspended overhead playing colorful video patterns) was funnier before the wee corpses moldered.
Jill Larson's chain-swing arrested at a terminus of its arc is beautifully simple and evocative -- and bears the slightly unnerving title "Keeping the Secret." Two paintings by Jim Dugas are acrylic abstracts so dense with paint, wildly colorful and minutely detailed they feel not only 3-D but nearly alive. Ian Brill's "After Gericault" is a wall-sized manipulated-video projection of people -- ghostly overlapping figures -- working on and around a scaffold. Though uninvolving when the gallery's noisy, "Gericault" is fascinating when you can hear its soundtrack of overlapping voices.
John Riegert contributes a deadpan presentation of a disassembled Universal Gym weight set that "allegedly belonged to Andy Warhol." Believe it or don't -- but check out Andy Warhol Museum staffer Leslie Clague's "Cloud," in the gallery's front window. It's a huge sheet of polyester silk-screened with dozens of iterations of the same group of young men jumping -- a tune right from Andy's own hymnal.
Behind Our Scenes continues through Feb. 13. Space, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-325-7723